Tuesday, August 06, 2013

In Praise of Free Time

...and Facebook doesn't count as free time.

Out of less than sixty e-mails in my inbox*, there are still a few articles at the bottom of my inbox from years ago that I saved for some future thought, blog post, or whatever. Two years ago today, my mother sent my sister-in-law and myself a great piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams on "The Benefits of Boredom". In the piece, Adams argues that boredom is a necessary precursor for creativity, and that modern technology's constant interactivity negatively impacts our creative minds by not allowing us the time to enjoy true boredom. It's interesting, funny, and also a little sad.

Our kids, thank God, are extremely creative. That said, they're also kids. They get bored. When they're bored, they get annoyed. They want to watch TV (ugh) or want us to think of ideas for them. But when we refuse and tell them to use their imagination, they (often, not always) do - and it's incredible to see what they come up with. The past month or so, for the first time since we were first married (??), both Serach and I were home for extended hours every day - and it wasn't because we were unemployed when we didn't want to be. Serach wasn't working this summer as we adjust to Cleveland, and I was unassigned. While we were still quite busy for the most part between the move, unpacking, settling in, and getting all the little things done that go into living in a new state, we also got to take the kids out and have some fun - and we got to stay home, let the kids get bored, and watch them be creative.

Earlier today, Serach suggested that since I begin work at a client tomorrow, perhaps we should take the kids out to go do something. It didn't work out for other reasons, but part of me couldn't help but feel that it was more desirable to do absolutely nothing. For weeks, I had been able to on occasion do absolutely nothing - and it was liberating. My mind was able to be somewhat at ease, a feeling not felt in years. One Shabbos afternoon recently I took Kayla (5) to the playground, and at one point since the playground was nearly empty, I took the swing next to her and started to swing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It was exhilarating. Not because of the swinging, though that was great; but because when you're swinging fast enough, the world around you is really moving too quickly for your senses to take in fully without getting dizzy, so either you can try and concentrate on something - or you can just zone out and let your mind go. I chose the latter.

A few people asked me recently if I was 'itching' to get back to work, and I answered that I was - while it was great to have the time to unpack and settle in, at some point most people wish to contribute and not simply be on the sidelines. At the same time, I also couldn't help but appreciate the need for more free time; time to sit back, relax, and let my mind wander.

Hopefully now we will be able to have both.


* I am a "zero inbox" person who also never really deletes emails, but instead archives them. On Gmail, this means that every email or conversation is stored should there ever be a desire or need to find it. This also means that I use my inbox as a storage place for items that need to be returned to - if it's still non archived, an email is likely either a bill, an email that needs a reply, a task that needs to be completed, or an article I'm saving for some reason.

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